The Heritage Run was a 6,500+ mile trip from Florida to California and back with people who became like family to me. We spent 24 days uncovering stories from the road and all the people that we met along the way.
People from all over the country stepped up and lent a hand, a place to stay, or a meal to share as we made the trek. I think that's one of the most beautiful things about adventuring with today's technology. Social media allowed us to expand our network of like-minded riders who give a damn.
The adventure was perfect. Perfect in the sense that I've accepted all of it's harshness and the rollercoasters that came with it. Going into a trip like this, you have to accept the inevitable. This shit will be hard. You're going to spend time with people in the lowest of lows, and you have to fight it all together. As I'm writing this, one specific time comes to mind.
While traveling through Arizona, making our way to Nevada, we encountered the desert heat at an extreme that was almost unbearable. Well, actually, it was unbearable. The temperature had rose to 118 degrees and we got stuck in a ride through a canyon, with the rock walls acting as an oven furnace baking us inside of it. I literally felt like my skin was peeling back as I was riding. Luckily, we had our Sena Bluetooth headsets connected to each rider, and I could hear everyone else screaming and feeling just as much of the burn as I did. Not that I wished that upon anyone else.. but at least I knew we could communicate through it together.
The canyon seemed like it would never end, and there was no exit was in sight. We finally had the chance to pull off, after what seemed like an eternity as we watched our engine temperatures rise at an alarming rate. The exit had nothing but a small overpass where we could seek refuge. Meanwhile, some miles away, we could see a storm brewing over the mountains.. but it didn't seem like it would hit us anytime soon with relief. We were out of water, and we laid out on the rocks for a solid hour trying to regain our right states of mind.
Jimmy, one of the other riders who was somewhat familiar with the area, was adamant that another exit was only about 5 minutes down the road where we could get water. We decided that we would only make the move together as a unit and only when the bikes cooled down. When we got back on the road, 5 minutes turned into 30 minutes of that blistering hot weather and we felt that same terror all over again until we hit the exit.
We stopped at a McDonalds (not my preferred choice, but it had A/C at least) and we met 3 other riders from Canada who were making the trip out to California for Born Free as well! They were escaping from the same heat, but had been smart enough to strap bags of ice to their gas tanks to relieve them along the way. We sought out refuge at this McDonald's sharing tales from our respective journeys.
We met up with the Canadian riders again in California. It's funny how things work out.
I crossed a few bucket list items off on this trip as well. We summited Pike's Peak for the first time collectively. My bike with its carburetor handled beautifully up the 14,000+ feet of mountain range thanks to throwing on a more exposed air filter by Kuryakyn before the trip. All loaded up on my bagger, me and all my 115 pounds could handle those switchbacks and tight curves easily, but the only struggle I think throughout the ride was trying not to look down the mountain and feel afraid. That would be quite the fall! There wasn't much room for error on this ride, as there are not many guard rails to potentially save you. But I think that's part of the excitement. We made it through, and still are living to tell the tale and ride on.
Our timeline had us arriving in Costa Mesa, CA just in time for the Born Free Stampede, where Jimmy would park his Indian Chieftan and hop on one of Roland Sand's SuperHooligan Indian Scouts (about 500lbs lighter) to race flat track.
As a rider in the dirt and a professional freestyle motocross rider, Jimmy had gotten his endorsement to ride the road for this trip specifically. I loved seeing this transition, and hearing the differences that road-riding offered riders that had never dived into the sort. I remember him at first feeling overwhelmed with the monotony of the road as we made our way to Atlanta. As we started to cross into the more desolate riding with the most incredible views, he would stand up on his motorcycle and exclaim about how freeing the experience felt.
Giselle, my best friend, has had her license for about 4 years now and was riding her Iron 883 Sportster the whole way and handled it so gracefully. Her longest trip had been about 12 hours from Orlando, FL to New Orleans, LA. It was amazing to be a part of her journey through the ever-changing landscapes that America's roads provide as we ventured forward. She remained tough throughout the whole experience, through the ups and the downs. This trip was a highlight of our friendship, and a memory that I will cherish forever. I just packed up and moved 8 hours from her, and we deemed this a parting gift to each other.
Pedro, a fellow Motorcycle Mechanics Institute graduate, came to the USA from Portugal 2 years ago and had never road much past Florida's borders. With a limited image of what America had to offer, his views broadened as each mile passed. He was quick to take the lead and ride his own ride whenever possible to enjoy the pure power of his Dyna FXDX. I will admit, I was afraid a few times. We would lose sight of him for what seemed like forever, but as soon as a gas station would come about on the side of the road, there he would be with a smile that went from ear to ear.
There are so many tales from the trip that I could sit here forever trying to articulate. But for now, I will leave you with this: get out there and seek your own adventure. Don't be afraid of the what-if's. Handle them as they come. This was my first time leading a ride, and the first trip of this magnitude without my dad by my side. WE MADE IT BACK. And we came back stronger with the lessons that only something like this will provide.
Until next time!